March 18: A Rising Star Falls Twice. On the Same Date

 

The day after St. Patrick’s Day was anything but a lucky one for John G. Rowland, who found himself on the wrong end of the law on March 18, 2005, and then again 10 years later on March 18, 2015.

Once considered one of Connecticut’s best and brightest politicians, Rowland first won elected office as a state representative at the young age of 23 and became a U.S. congressman only four years later in 1984. After becoming the state’s 85th governor in 1995, the popular moderate Republican — who was the youngest man to serve as Connecticut’s governor since the 18th century — was re-elected twice by comfortable margins in 1998 and 2002, leaving some political analysts to speculate that a presidential or vice-presidential run might be in his future.

However, in 2003, rumors began swirling of state contractors performing work for little or no cost on Rowland’s personal property, sparking a lengthy federal investigation that culminated in several of Rowland’s former aides being indicted on corruption-related charges. By January 2004, Rowland himself was being directly investigated by the Justice Department for corruption, most notably his acceptance of bribes in the form of cash and services. When the Connecticut Supreme Court summoned him to testify in June, Rowland chose to resign rather than comply and run the risk of impeachment. Six months later, acknowledging his own “poor judgment,” he pleaded guilty to one count of depriving the citizens of Connecticut of “the honest services of its governor.”

On March 18, 2005, Rowland was sentenced to one year in federal prison, followed by a long period of probation. After his release, a chastened Rowland hit the lecture circuit, speaking to audiences ranging from students to parolees about the dangers of unethical behavior. From 2010 to 2014, Rowland co-hosted what became a popular talk radio show on Connecticut’s WTIC-AM. During that period, he re-entered politics indirectly, offering his services as campaign adviser to aspiring Republican political candidates, which led to his second downfall.

On March 18, 2015, 10 years to the day after his first conviction, John Rowland was convicted in a federal court again, this time for violating campaign election laws. He was convicted for failing to disclose payments he received for work on the unsuccessful Congressional campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley in 2012, having funneled them instead through a phony contract with Wilson-Foley’s husband. He also was convicted of attempting to set up a similar arrangement with Congressional candidate Mark Greenberg in 2010. For his second conviction, Rowland received a 30-month sentence. A rising star fell twice, today in Connecticut history.

Further Reading

“Former Governor Sentenced To 30 Months In Prison For Illegal Activity In Two Congressional Campaigns,” Offices of the United States Attorneys, U.S. Department of Justice

Heather Brandon, “Connecticut Ex-Governor Rowland Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison for Campaign Scam,” WNPR.org